“There’s no Mickey Pool?! There’s no AquaDuck?! No thank you.” This was my 5 year-old son’s immediate response when I told him we would be spending four days in the sunny Caribbean on a Princess Cruise. Okay, that was after I explained that being on a Princess Cruise did not mean we were going to be cruising “with princesses,” which had been proclaimed to be “yucky.”
You see, we are a Disney family. At the tender age of 5 my son (Andrew) has visited the Walt Disney World Resort 11 times and sailed aboard the Disney Fantasy on two Disney Cruises. But through these posts, I’ll share how two spoiled Disney fans learned to “jump ship” and really enjoy a Princess Cruise.
First, Disney Fantasy vs. the Emerald Princess … by the numbers:
Launched in 2012, the Disney Fantasy is a nearly 130,000 gross ton “Dream-class” ship. The Emerald Princess, launched in 2006, is a little smaller weighing in at just over 113,000 gross tons. Walking stern to bow on the Disney Fantasy is a journey just over a fifth of a mile (1117 feet), while the same path on the Emerald Princess is 166 feet shorter. Guests aboard the Disney Fantasy may find themselves among 4000 other Guests, the maximum the ship can host. With a maximum occupancy nearly 25% fewer, the Emerald Princess may welcome a maximum 3,080 passengers aboard her craft.
I’m throwing out all this trivia to illustrate that, even as a smaller class ship, the Emerald Princess really packs a lot into her more modest space.
Our itinerary aboard the Emerald Princess departed from the port of Ft. Lauderdale, spent a day at sea, a day at Grand Cayman, and another day at sea before returning to Ft. Lauderdale. A quick little cruise, but more than enough to shake off the winter blues.
Let’s look at the ship’s amenities:
Unfortunately, we only took photos of the pools, as the weather was always too cold or the seas too choppy to enjoy them. But they sure look lovely.
Aboard the Fantasy, my son never volunteered to go to Disney’s Oceaneer Club (the on-board supervised kids’ club) and when he was there, we knew we were on borrowed time, awaiting the page to tell us he wanted to leave.
Since daddy didn’t join us on this vacation, I was really concerned Andrew wouldn’t want to visit the kids’ club aboard the Emerald Princess either and I would get zero mommy time. Wanting to “test the waters” early, we visited the Princess Pelican’s Club (ages 3-7) open house on embarkation day and he couldn’t wait to go back.
I think a combination of video games and a much smaller crowd of children appealed to him. He loved visiting the club during our day in port, when he had two lovely counselors to entertain only him! That’s not to say he didn’t also make friends. While walking around the ship I was surprised to see Andrew run up to and hug another boy (who hugged him in return) and, as we walked away, shouted back “see you at the club tonight!” Yes, my preschooler has a more exciting nightlife than I do. Princess also offers Shockwave’s for the 8-12 set and Remix for the 13-17 age group.
Aboard the Fantasy, the three main dining rooms are as much entertainment as they are restaurants (okay, Royal Court is kind of boring). And the team of servers stays with the same Guests from evening to evening, learning likes/dislikes and anticipating Guests’ needs.
Dining aboard the Emerald Princess was much less imaginative, with the traditional Botticelli dining room and the two “anytime” dining options, the Michelangelo and Da Vinci dining rooms. I think if I could have torn Andrew away from the kids’ club to eat in the restaurants he would have been bored. But he always opted to stay in the kids’ club while we ate. So my father and I were able to enjoy long “boring” meals in peace, before having to be rolled out in the usual cruise-induced “food coma.”
It was always a struggle to coordinate everyone to get ready and arrive for a nice dinner the same time every evening on the Disney Fantasy. Though it all but eliminates the possibility of keeping the same serving team each evening, I really like the idea of “anytime dining.” But the reality is, unless you are staying in a suite (priority seating), it can be hard to get a reservation in advance and if you just show up at popular times you will wait in line. Fortunately, guests are rewarded for their wait with dining options, which (I felt) were just as good as, if not better than, the culinary offerings on the Disney Fantasy.
As for the common areas of the ship (atrium, public bathrooms, lounges, etc.), all were nicely designed, maintained, and clean (maybe not “Disney” clean, but still quite clean). We rarely encountered crowds; and I never had to pass on an elevator because it was full, which happened regularly on the Fantasy.
One afternoon they had two young ladies serving complimentary cookies and milk in the atrium.
As a regular visitor to Walt Disney World Resort, I’ve been spoiled by exceptional Guest service provided by outstanding Cast Members. Disney Cruise Line extends that Guest-centric philosophy aboard its 4 ships. I was worried that Princess would disappoint in this arena, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Seeing that Andrew’s favorite lovey was an elephant, Sonny (our room steward) made a special friend for him.
Paged by my son in the kids’ club, I had to abruptly leave the Wheelhouse lounge during the “buy one, get one for a dollar” happy hour. The next day, bartenders Richard and Samir remembered me and after a little well-deserved teasing about the pager I was carrying yet again, gave me the dollar drink I’d abandoned the day before.
All the staff and crew we encountered were knowledgeable and attentive, many went above and beyond to make our (all too brief) voyage exceptional.
Tomorrow, check in and read part 2 of my post for the price comparison as well as an inside look at the Owner’s Suite, perks of being a suite guest on the Emerald Princess, and how to enjoy a cruise after your father breaks his leg, your son vomits in the kids’ club, and a fire in a crew area of the ship sets off alarms requiring the crew to report to their muster stations. Until then … happy sailing!
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